The applause started as he peeled off his warm-up suit while making his way to the scorer’s table midway through the first quarter.
By the time he stepped on to the floor for his season debut, many in the sellout crowd of 17,583 at Golden 1 Center had risen to their feet to give him a standing ovation.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Kings public address announcer Scott Moak said. “Time to welcome back No. 8, Bogdan Bogdanovic.”
Bogdanovic made his much-anticipated return Wednesday night in a 114-105 loss to the Toronto Raptors. The Kings (6-5) cut a 15-point deficit to seven with just under five minutes to play in the fourth quarter, but the red-hot Raptors (11-1) withstood the charge.
It wasn’t the outcome the Kings wanted, but they said it was good to have Bogdanovic back after he missed the first 10 games while recovering from offseason knee surgery.
“I thought Bogdanovic looked solid,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “He got tired. There was no question about that and it showed a little bit, but (I’m) very proud of him and our entire team.”
Kawhi Leonard posted 25 points and 11 rebounds for the Raptors, who shot 46.6 percent from the field and amassed a 53-31 rebounding advantage.
Willie Cauley-Stein had 24 points and eight rebounds for the Kings, who shot 47.7 percent. Buddy Hield also scored 24 points. De’Aaron Fox had 20.
Bogdanovic finished with just seven points on 3-of-7 shooting, but he got off to an impressive start. He entered the game with six minutes remaining in the opening period and soon found himself with the ball at the top of the arc.
Bogdanovic got a step on Danny Green, a second-team All-NBA Defensive Team selection in 2017, and drove to the hoop. Serge Ibaka, a three-time first-team All-NBA Defensive Team selection and two-time league leader in blocked shots, came over to help, but Bogdanovic went high off the glass with a layup that fell softly through the net for his first points of the season.
On the next possession, Bogdanovic received the ball in the corner. He was closely guarded by Leonard, the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Bogdanovic gave Leonard a pump fake and a jab step before rising up to shoot a 3-pointer over his outstretched arm.
Nothing but net.
“I felt good and also I would like to thank the fans for (the) standing ovation at the beginning,” the Serbian guard said. “I found some energy from them.”
In just over 18 minutes of action, Bogdanovic spent time at point guard, shooting guard and small forward. He even guarded Toronto power forward Pascal Siakam on a couple of occasions.
“He’s not just a shooter,” said Kings forward Nemanja Bjelica, who was held scoreless in 19 minutes. “He’s also a very good defender. He can play with the ball. He can create for his teammates. It’s great to have Bogi back on the court.”
“He’s a great scorer, shoots the ball well, (and) he’s a good playmaker, so it adds another dynamic to our team,” Fox said.
Bogdanovic said his surgically repaired knee felt fine, but it will take him a few games to improve his conditioning and acclimate himself with the team’s new up-tempo offense.
“I was a little bit tired, but just my lungs,” he said. “Legs are good and knee is good, so that’s what I’m worried about.”
Cauley-Stein said Bogdanovic simply needs more playing time to get up to speed.
“We’ve been running for weeks and he hasn’t had the chance to run like this, so he’s probably really tired,” Cauley-Stein said. “He’s got to catch up to that pace, but that’s just going to happen with minutes.”
Bogdanovic had only one more basket after that early flourish, but there will be plenty more to come.
“I was asking for (the) ball, but I couldn’t find another open shot,” said Bogdanovic, who shot 39.2 percent from 3-point range as a rookie last season. “That’s normal. I felt good, honestly. I’m just happy to be a part of the team and to be healthy.”